With four weeks left in the WHL’s regular season, four teams have clinched playoff spots — the Prince Albert Raiders, Everett Silvertips, Vancouver Giants and Portland Winterhawks.
However, not one of the eight first-round playoff matchups has been set in stone.
The Raiders, for example, will finish atop the Eastern Conference, so will draw the second wild-card team. That slot will go to any one of seven teams.
The winner of the Central Division will get the first wild-card team, which obviously has yet to be decided. As for the division pennant winner, well, all five teams remain in the chase.
Although it’s not official, at least not mathematically, the Saskatoon Blades will have home-ice advantage in a first-round series with the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Blades are headed for a second-place finish in the East Division, with the Warriors in third.
In the Western Conference, only one team is assured of where it will finish — when it’s over, the Giants will be atop the B.C. Division.
Vancouver also is tied with Everett atop the conference standings, and the Giants hold a game in hand.
The Victoria Royals almost certainly will finish second in the B.C. Division — they are 20 points behind Vancouver and 10 points ahead of the Kelowna Rockets — but other than that it’s a roll of the dice.
Portland is second in the U.S. Division, five points behind the Silvertips and 10 ahead of the Spokane Chiefs.
The Chiefs, Tri-City Americans, Seattle Thunderbirds, Kelowna, and the Kamloops Blazers don’t yet know in which spots they will wind up.
The Prince George Cougars aren’t officially out of it, but they are 12 points from a playoff spot, riding a 15-game losing skid (0-11-4) and have only 12 games remaining.
So . . . you think you’d like to scout for a WHL team, do you?
Here’s an early Sunday evening posting on Facebook from Mike Fraser, the Everett Silvertips’ head scout . . .
“The 10 things I’ve learned in my 12 hours (so far) at Saskatoon airport:
“1. Travelling in winter isn’t always made easier by flying instead of driving.
“2. When you are accommodating and agree to a 6:15 pm flight to help appease people going to Puerto Vallarta, the Flying Gods don’t necessarily have to make your 6:15 flight on time either (I’m now delayed two more hours).
“3. If your flight starts getting delayed in 5- or 10-minute increments starting 3-or-so hours before departure time, that’s a bad sign and start looking at other options.
“4. Trying to cancel a hotel room in Red Deer because you’re stuck in Saskatoon doesn’t mean the hotel in Red Deer won’t charge you.
“5. Guys need to stop texting while standing at a urinal….that’s just weird, and gross.
“6. I’ve now had 12 of my last 13 trips delayed, a dynasty not even Tom Brady can touch.
“7. Starbucks closes very early at Saskatoon airport.
“8. No matter how many times I see the Jets highlights from last night, they still lost.
“9. I’ve learned that one woman likes to tell her boyfriend when they can sleep together based on her “cycles.” No I didn’t ask, she told an entire section of us while on a very loud and apparently open phone call.
“10. I still refuse to drink Pilsner.
“Cheers my friends, here’s to hoping I get home tonight.”
Later Sunday, Fraser posted: “And we’re now cancelled . . . let’s try again tomorrow?”
To be continued . . .
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Behind three goals and an assist from F Joachim Blichfeld, the Portland Winterhawks clinched a playoff spot with a 5-2 victory over the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Portland (35-16-6) has points in three straight (2-0-1). It is second in the U.S. Division, five points behind the Everett Silvertips, who have a game in hand. . . . The Winterhawks, who will be in the playoffs for a 10th straight season, have 11 games remaining, but only three of them are at home. . . . Seattle (23-28-6) had won its previous two games. It is in the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, five points ahead of the Kamloops Blazers, who have three games in hand. . . . The Thunderbirds went 2-1-0 in playing three times in fewer than 48 hours. . . . With three games remaining, Portland leads the season series (6-2-0); Seattle is (2-5-1). . . . F Josh Paterson (21) broke a 1-1 tie at 16:26 of the first period, and Blichfeld took it from there, scoring Portland’s last three goals. . . . Blichfeld, who recorded his fourth career hat trick, leads the WHL in goals (48) and points (98), in 57 games. His third goal of the game was the 100th regular-season goal. . . . F Cody Glass, playing his second game in two nights after missing eight games with a knee injury, had the primary assist on each of Blichfeld’s goals. Glass has 68 points, including 54 assists, in 36 games. . . . Blichfeld scored once on the PP, once while shorthanded and once at even strength. . . . The Winterhawks were 2-3 on the PP; the Thunderbirds were 1-2. . . . Seattle F Matthew Wedman scored his 32nd goal, on a PP, to run his goal-scoring streak to six games. . . . The Winterhawks had a 52-36 edge in shots. . . . G Josh Hofer stopped 34 shots to earn the victory. . . . Seattle G Cole Schwebius turned aside 47 shots. . . . Portland head coach Mike Johnston posted his 350th regular-season coaching victory. He is 19th on the WHL’s all-time list. . . . The Winterhawks will play their third game in fewer than 48 hours this afternoon when they meet the Vancouver Giants in Langley, B.C.
F Luka Burzan had a goal and four assists, and F Stelio Mattheos had three goals and an assist, as the host Brandon Wheat Kings beat the Prince Albert Raiders, 6-3. . . . Brandon (26-22-7) has won three in a row and now is four points from the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot that is held by the Red Deer Rebels. . . . That second spot will mean a first-round clash with Prince Albert (46-8-3), which had points in each of its previous six games (5-0-1). The Raiders have lost two in a row for the first time this season. . . . On Friday, the Wheat Kings went into Prince Albert and won, 5-4 in OT. . . . G Ian Scott and F Brett Leason remain out of the Raiders’ lineup. . . . Brandon was 3-9 on the PP; Prince Albert was 1-4. . . . Brandon got a goal and two assists from F Cole Reinhardt, while F Justin Nachbaur scored twice for the Raiders.
F Tate Popple scored twice, and F Brayden Tracey had a goal and two assists, helping the Moose Jaw Warriors to a 6-3 victory over the Regina Pats. . . . Moose Jaw (31-15-8) had lost its previous two games. The Warriors are second in the East Division and headed for a first-round meeting with the Saskatoon Blades. . . . Regina (16-38-3) hasn’t lost 40 games in regulation-time since 2004-05 when it finished 12-50-10. . . . Regina F Austin Pratt was credited with his 22nd goal when the Warriors scored an own goal with a delayed penalty about to be called on the Pats. . . . Tracey, a 17-year-old freshman from Calgary, was the 21st-overall selection in the 2016 bantam draft. He has 62 points, including 25 goals, in 54 games. . . . The Warriors were credited with a 47-19 edge in faceoffs. . . . It was Hall of Fame weekend in Moose Jaw as F Shawn Limpright and F Brian Sutherby, both of whom played four seasons (1998-2002) there, were inducted into the Warriors’ shrine.
The Saskatoon Blades solidified their hold on second place in the East Division with a 5-2 victory over the Hurricanes in Lethbridge. . . . Saskatoon (37-13-8) has points in 13 straight games (11-0-2). It is second in the division, 13 points behind the Prince Albert Raiders and 12 up on the Moose Jaw Warriors, who hold four games in hand. . . . Saskatoon and Moose Jaw are headed for a first-round playoff meeting. They will meet twice more this regular season — on March 5 in Moose Jaw and March 10 in Saskatoon. The Blades lead the season series, 3-1-0. . . . Lethbridge (29-16-10) had won its previous two games. The Hurricanes are second in the Central Division, two points behind the Edmonton Oil Kings and one ahead of the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . Four of Lethbridge’s last four games will be against Medicine Hat, starting with a home-and-home on Friday (Lethbridge) and Saturday (Medicine Hat).
F Mark Kastelic scored three goals to help the Calgary Hitmen to a 5-3 victory over the Tigers in Medicine Hat. . . . Calgary (30-21-5) has won two in a row. . . . The Hitmen beat the visiting Tigers, 3-1, on Friday night. . . . Calgary is fourth in the Central Division, two points behind Medicine Hat and three behind the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The Hitmen continued to hold down the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot, two points ahead of the Red Deer Rebels. . . . Medicine Hat (31-21-5) has lost three straight. . . . On Saturday, the Hitmen erased a 3-2 third-period deficit with the game’s last three goals. Kastelic had opened the game’s scoring with his 40th goal of the season in the first period. He added a pair of third-period PP goals, equalizing at 9:06 and adding insurance at 16:18. . . . In between, D Vladilsav Yeryomenko’s third goal, at 12:02, turned into the winner.
G David Tendeck stopped 22 shots to lead the Vancouver Giants to a 2-0 victory over the Rockets in Kelowna. . . . Vancouver (39-13-3) has won seven in a row. It leads the B.C. Division by 20 points over the Victoria Royals, who have 13 games remaining. . . . The Giants haven’t enjoyed a 40-victory regular season since 2011-12 when they finished 40-26-6. . . . Vancouver also is tied with the Everett Silvertips (39-14-3) for top spot in the Western Conference. . . . Kelowna (23-28-5) has lost two in a row. The Rockets are third in the B.C. Division, 10 points behind Victoria and four ahead of the Kelowna Blazers, who hold two games in hand. . . . The Rockets left Sunday on their final multi-game road trip of the season; they’ll play a doubleheader in Victoria this afternoon and Tuesday night, then meet the Chiefs in Spokane on Friday night. . . . The Rockets have three games left with Vancouver, two of them in Langley, B.C., and two with the Portland Winterhawks, both in Kelowna. . . . Tendeck has three shutouts this season, matching his total from last season.
G Joel Hofer turned aside 25 shots as his Portland Winterhawks blanked the visiting Red Deer Rebels, 2-0. . . . Portland (34-16-6) had lost its previous two games (0-1-1). After beating the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds, 4-2, on Sunday, the Winterhawks, who are second in the U.S. Division, are five points behind the Everett Silvertips. Portland and Everett only have one game remaining with each other. . . . Red Deer (29-21-5) has lost two in a row. It holds down the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, two points behind the Calgary Hitmen. . . . The Rebels are 1-2-1 on a U.S. Division swing that ends Tuesday night with a visit to the Tri-City Americans. . . . Portland D Jared Freadrich (10) scored the game’s first goal, just 41 seconds into the third period. . . . Portland’s second goal was an empty-netter off the stick of F Cody Glass (14). Glass was playing in his first game after suffering a knee injury on Jan. 26. He missed eight games. . . . Hofer has four career shutouts, two with the Swift Current Broncos and two since his trade to Portland.
F Kody McDonald scored two goals in regulation time and one in a shootout as the Victoria Royals beat the Cougars, 5-4, in Prince George. . . . One night earlier, the Royals won, 4-1, in Prince George. . . . Victoria (29-23-3) has won two in a row. It is second in the B.C. Division, 20 points behind the Vancouver Giants and 10 in front of the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Prince George (16-33-7) has lost 15 in a row (0-11-4). The Cougars are 12 points from a playoff spot with 12 games remaining. They are fifth in the B.C. Division, 12 points behind the Kelowna Rockets. Prince George also is 13 points from a wild-cardspot. . . . McDonald, 20, played the first 232 games of his WHL career with the Cougars, who dealt him to the Prince Albert Raiders. The Royals acquired him from the Raiders earlier this season. . . . McDonald, who has 15 goals, gave the Royals a 3-2 lead at 0:51 of the third period, then forced OT with a goal at 17:03. . . . He won the game when he closed out the third round of the shootout with a goal. . . . F Carson Miller, who was part of the Prince Albert-Victoria deal that included McDonald, also had two goals for the Royals, with F Josh Maser scoring twice for the Cougars. Those were Miller’s first goals with Victoria since the trade.
G Roddy Ross stopped 46 shots to lead the Seattle Thunderbirds to a 4-1 victory over the Everett Silvertips in Kent, Wash. . . . If you’re new here, Seattle plays its home games in Kent. . . . Seattle (23-27-6) is in possession of the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, five points ahead of the Kamloops Blazers, who have three games in hand. . . . Everett (39-14-3) had points in each of its previous three games (2-0-1). It leads the U.S. Division by five points over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Everett also is tied with the Vancouver Giants for top spot in the Western Conference. The Giants (39-13-3) have a game in hand. . . . Everett and Seattle combined for 110 penalty minutes, 96 of them in the game’s final 13 seconds. . . . You’re right. These teams don’t like each other, and they still have to play each other three more times. . . . This also could be a first-round playoff matchup. Everett leads the season series, 6-1-0; Seattle is 1-5-1. . . . F Matthew Wedman had a goal and two assists for the Thunderbirds on Saturday. He’s got 62 points, 31 of them goals, in 55 games. . . . This was Everett’s third game in fewer than 48 hours. They dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to the visiting Red Deer Rebels on Thursday night, in a game that was rescheduled from Wednesday, then beat the Rockets, 3-1, in Kelowna on Friday. . . . The Silvertips will make it five games in six days by playing a doubleheader in Prince George on Monday afternoon and Tuesday night.
F Kyle Olson scored three times and added an assist to help the Tri-City Americans to a 7-5 victory over the Spokane Chiefs in Kennewick, Wash. . . . Tri-City (31-20-3) has won three in a row. It is fourth in the U.S. Division, one point behind Spokane and with a game in hand. . . . Spokane (30-19-6) has lost two straight. It is third in the U.S. Division, eight points behind the Portland Winterhawks. . . . F Nolan Yaremko and F Parker AuCoin each had a goal and two assists for Tri-City. . . . The Chiefs got two goals and and assist from freshman F Adam Beckman. A fifth-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft, Beckman has 48 points, 25 of them goals, in 55 games. . . . Tri-City G Beck Warm may have been five times, but he still came up with 45 saves.